Bringing a pet into our home, inviting a new member of the family to be as much a part of us as everyone else, is not a light decision to make. For me, the moment I take on the responsibility of a new pet I know I will adore them for the rest of their lives.
When I was eleven years old I brought home a kitten for the first time. I loved that kitten more than I had ever loved anything or anyone else, and miraculously that kitten loved me back. She tolerated others and sometimes avoided them but Tinkerbelle loved me fiercely. Throughout the rest of my childhood and teenage years, no matter what friends I was fighting with or who came and went from my life, Tink was a constant. There was never a night, regardless of whether or I was happy or sad, that she didn’t cuddle up under the covers with me and purr. I knew that no matter what was happening in the world around me she would always be there.
As Tink got older she started developing health problems. It began with hyperthyroid but fortunately some medication got that under control, but her difficulties kept on coming. When she was fourteen years old it fell on my shoulders to make the most difficult decision I have ever had to make as a pet-parent, the choice to let her keep struggling or to give her the peace she deserved. With tears streaming uncontrollably from my eyes and my heart sinking into the dark pit of my stomach, I sat with her for her last moments and allowed her veterinarian to help her go to sleep.
At first I resisted the idea of adopting a new pet, I couldn’t shake the thought that it would be as if I was replacing Tink and I knew that could never happen. Even though I know logically I made the right decision putting her down, my emotions fought with my logic and told me a different story. “There must be something I could have done differently, something I hadn’t tried, some way I could have saved her.”
Eventually I healed enough to consider adopting another pet. Without Tink I was lonely, I hadn’t been without a pet in a very long time and I told myself that holding on to Tink was never going to bring her back. There are so many animals out there that need loving homes and the best thing I could do to honor her was to be that person that Tink thought I was and help someone in need.
I brought home a ten month old yorkie-chihuahua mix, my first dog not including my stepmother’s dog when I was younger, but I wasn’t responsible for that animal’s upbringing and care so it was different.
I’ve told the story previously on this blog of Rue, the baby kitten that was brought to Emerald City Pet Rescue along with her six siblings in the fall of 2015. All of the kittens were small, only a few weeks old and without a mother but Rue was by far the runt, not just smaller than her siblings but literally skin and bones. No one was optimistic about her prognosis. I have never said this out loud, not to anyone else and not even to myself, but something about the moment I picked up Rue, a kitten the size of a hamster with the tiniest limbs much thinner than even a pencil, instantly brought me back to the first time I held Tinkerbelle.
Tinkerbelle was also the runt of her litter. I got her from a pet store (don’t judge, I was only eleven) and she was the last kitten left of her litter. She was very small and she was meowing like a newborn, loud and shrill, but the moment I took her into my arms the crying ceased and the purring began. I knew in that moment that Tinkerbelle was meant to be mine. Last fall, the moment I curled sickly little Rue into the palm of my hand I felt an instant connection with her. I stayed up with her night after night to syringe-feed her around the clock, and it was several weeks before she could eat on her own. When it came time for her brothers and sisters to be adopted out, I knew I couldn’t let her go because she was already home. I know Rue is not Tinkerbelle, and yet watching Rue play, or cuddling with her in my arms and listening to her purr is the only time I feel truly at peace about Tinkerbelle’s passing. Although I wish more than anything that our pets could live as long as we do so we don’t have to suffer the heartache of losing them, the best way you can honor a lost pet’s devotion to you is by allowing yourself to love another.
Things brings me to what inspired this personal post. Here at Emerald City Pet Rescue, we’ve suffered a few very sad losses over the last week. It is NEVER easy to decide, when an animal is suffering, what is best for them. I wish more than anything animals could communicate with us in speech and tell us what they want, but the best and most compassionate thing we can do is look into their eyes and try to listen to what is inside of their hearts.
I left work a few days last week with tears in my eyes over the losses and my heart felt heavy. I hugged both of my dogs and both of my cats and I felt comforted. I am sad for those wonderful animals we lost over these last few days.
If I could try to imagine what the animals we have tragically lost would want, I believe it would be for their fellow friends to find the forever homes they so very much deserve. In rescue, there are moments that lift us up and moments that weigh us down, but I wouldn’t change being a part of this world for anything.
I will always keep those we have recently lost in my thoughts, but I will honor them by pushing forward and being a support system for their brothers and sisters in spirit who are asking us with their eyes and heart to help them find happiness. I urge everyone else to do the same, together we can make a difference in so many lives. Every single happy ending is more than worth bearing the losses.
Have a wonderful week everyone. Onward we go!